Why the "Play Time" of a Game Shouldn't Be "News"
Today, Eidos Montreal made “news” by announcing that the play time for the delayed Deus Ex: Human Revolution title coming out of the studio sometime this year would take 25 hours to play through. I get a kick out of developers or publishers attaching a specific play time to a game, especially in this day and age. Even if someone wanted to know how long a game is and, for some ignorant reason, would base their purchase on that arbitrary number alone, there are still two big reasons why I don’t think play time matters. Let’s take a look at them.
Different strokes for different folks:
Every gamer is different, thus everyone has a different experience with the same game, even if only slightly. A game that may take one player 10 hours, might take another twice that, or more. Especially these days there are a plethora of optional stuff to do inside games besides going from point A to point B to complete the title. There are things to collect, unlock, perform, twist, turn, beat and any other verb you want to throw in there.
For some, just playing through the game for the story is sufficient, and that is all they want out of the title. For others, getting the platinum trophy or full 1000 gamerscore on a game is the goal. Other people may have a lower skill at certain game mechanics than others and it takes them longer to get through a spot, or they’re playing on a higher/lower difficulty.
There are just an endless number of ways the play time between different gamers can be altered with the same game. In the end, it really makes a “play time” announcement by a developer pretty useless.
It’s the journey that matters, not the destination:
Now let’s talk from an “overall experience” point of view. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be more on the “play time” train than I am now. I like long, engrossing, deep titles and games that took less time than that really didn’t appeal to me. However, there is most definitely something to say for the overall experience.
Titles like Uncharted 2, Heavenly Sword and Heavy Rain (oddly, all PS3 titles) are fairly short in the overall scheme of things, yet the experience they provide is far more than games that may have story modes that are much longer.
Heavenly Sword got a lot of criticism for being an incredibly short title. I think I completed it in about seven hours played in total. However, it was a great cinematic experience and I still think it is a great game that every PS3 owner should play. I’d most definitely say the same thing about Heavy Rain, which is relatively short, but packs a punch in those 10 hours of game play.
I won’t even get into the replay value of Heavy Rain because that really goes into the first topic above, in that some people will sit there and just play through it once, while others will play through the game multiple times to see how it changes depending on how you play it.
With those two things being said, have we seriously got to the point where a developer announcing a game’s play time is news? For real? Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually quite looking forward to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, even though I think it’ll get overshadowed by the Mass Effect franchise this year. But, I can guarantee you when I play through the game it is going to take me more than 25 hours, thus making their number incorrect.
Again, this is why it is practically useless for this information to be “news” – it will be different for everyone for various reasons. If I play the game and it takes me 30 hours, yet I don’t feel it was a great experience, that length of time makes absolutely no difference. A bad experience is still a bad experience.
Instead of a “play time” announcement, I’d rather hear them announce game features, replayability, optional stuff and story-related bits – all to help appeal to just about everyone who would be interested in a title such as this. Wouldn’t that make more sense? Let people play the game the way they want – which will always result in different play times – and talk about stuff people really want to hear instead of trying to pad the hype for your game by saying it’s this long or that deep.